Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
Then David said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and of good courage, and do it. Fear not, be not dismayed; for the Lord God, even my God is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished. I Chronicles 28:20
Good morning Prayer Team!
When people ask me why summer camp is so successful, I usually will say, somewhat jokingly, that the success of camp rests on people unplugging their electronics (all phones and electronic devices are collected at the start of camp) and sleep deprivation (no, we don’t deprive our campers of sleep, they choose to stay up late talking, at least the first couple of nights). Unplugging from electronic media helps people get back to basic conversation, something that is missing all too often in the world today. Sleep deprivation takes away the emotional edge, the emotional wall we all tend to build—when we are tired, we laugh at the dumbest things, and we cry easily as well.
What really makes camp work is that everyone checks their “cool card” at the door. At camp, it’s safe to sing in church, because everyone is doing it. No one looks at anyone funny for singing. At camp, virtually everyone goes to confession, so no one looks at anyone like they are a fanatic. At camp, it’s cool to sing, to worship, to pray, to go to confession.
When I come home, there is almost inevitable disappointment because in our churches, many people keep their cool cards out. It isn’t “cool” to come to church on time, so many people come late. It’s not “cool” to go to Bible study or confession, or to be vulnerable, or to share, to laugh hysterically or to cry. I realize that camp is an unreal reality, some people even call it a utopia. But I firmly believe that many elements of camp, starting with putting away the cool card, letting down our guard, can be done in our parishes. Yes, it takes some degree of vulnerability to let down one’s guard. Nothing worthwhile in life happens without some degree of vulnerability. You can’t experience love without vulnerability. You can’t succeed without taking a chance and you can’t take a chance without being at least somewhat vulnerable.
We should sing together when we worship. We should go to Bible study. We should feel comfortable talking about our faith. We should go to confession. Because these things are beautiful parts of the Orthodox Christian life. They are not only necessary parts, but these are the parts that bring meaning and depth to one’s faith. The faith cannot have depth if it is only experienced on a surface level. Camp is successful and getting teens to grow in their faith because it fosters an environment where it is okay to let one’s guard down, where it’s encourage to be vulnerable, where campers and counselors alike eagerly check their cool cards for the expressed purpose of growing in their faith. My wish for my parish and for other parishes is for the same to happen. So that we can be vulnerable to God and to one another and take away the joy that campers have as they make new friends, and the fulfillment they feel as they grow in their faith.
Lord, thank You for Your example of humility. You were vulnerable unto death on the cross for my salvation. Help me also to be vulnerable, to You, and with others, so that I may grow in my faith, so that I may grow closer to You, and closer to other Christians. I know the ways in which I should be more vulnerable to you. Give me the courage to let down my guard. Surround me with people who will do this with me and encourage me in my faith. Help me to encourage others to do the same. Amen.
Let down your guard and be vulnerable today!
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